Rich Man

Rich Man

You might have recognized me, at one point in time. That very statement feels like an exercise in arrogance, and I apologize, but it’s the unfortunate truth. You will have to forgive my narcissism. I have never been good at goodbyes.

You might have recognized me, at one point in time, because I was a movie star.

My fame happened sort of suddenly. I did a bit part for an independent flick in my hometown. It won a film festival. Soon enough, it was shown nationally. One thing led to another, and in six short months… I was a man of considerable money and influence. I moved to Beverly Hills. I bought a beautiful car to match my beautiful life.

I met a wife. I left a wife.

And I hated it all.

There is something so innately and insanely pompous inside a man who sits on top of the garbage pile of this planet. We palm five dollar water bottles while preaching about the priority of clean water and plastic pollution. We pluck cherry-picked facts to justify the existence of our overpriced luxuries while others, everywhere, suffer. Every single day.

It’s not fair.

Several years ago, I saw no better example of this than when my cast was asked to visit a local hospital. There was devastation everywhere. Children and families sat silently transfixed to bedsides and broken TVs, for hours and days on end. There was no excitement when we entered the room. They didn’t care about us. Those folks were clinging to any false flicker of hope they could find.

We didn’t have that.

A couple of the guys cracked jokes to get good pictures. It was only five minutes long, in the end. Then we were on our way to another wing. We never even bothered to wait… and listen to their stories. Maybe we could have helped them. There was so much sadness and misery inside that room. And yet… we left it the exact same way in which we came. Their loved ones were still dying.

Someone had to do something.

I made up my mind that very night. I would do everything in my power to save their lives.

Words were never enough. That was clear. After the rest of the group left, I marched down to the reception desk, by myself, and asked to speak to the head of the Hospital. Of course, I had no idea what I was doing. After an extensive discussion regarding the process and usage of donations, we agreed on an amount, and I phoned it in to my accountant.

He was furious. I told him to go fuck himself.

The donations were a smashing success. Every one of my ten million dollars was pumped into brand new MRI machines, proper tools to prevent infection, better staff salaries…. the works.

In my mind, it was just money. I could always make more.

And so, following the donation, I hit the pavement to earn some of the cash back. My agent double booked gigs. We worked weekends, and evenings, and weekend evenings. Soon I was in so many shitty movies that some of them were not even shown on the silver screen. My reputation dwindled a bit. But who cared? My money was going directly to the hospital. The feeling of saving and helping so many people was addicting. Finally, I felt like there was something in my life worth doing.

Sometimes, I checked in on the patients.

There was one woman that was my favorite. Her name was Mrs. Justino. She could not have been more than forty years old, and for every appointment and extended stay, her three little kids were in tow. To be honest… Mrs. Justino reminded me a lot of my own mom, before she passed.

I found her in a coma on a late Sunday evening.

My panic was probably a bit surreal to the staff. I insisted they tell me everything. The children had been taken out of the ward and were staying with their grandmother. Due to some unforeseen complications… Mrs. Justino was likely to die within the night.

There was one chance. She needed a kidney.

It was simple. Her children were too young, and her parents were too old. They did not have time to get on the waitlist. Everyone in the staff had tested, but no one was compatible. There were no matches available anywhere in the area.

On a whim, the nurse asked me if I wanted to test. As fate would have it… I was a perfect match.

The surgery was a smashing success. Mrs. Justino was conscious and alert a couple hours after, and she thanked me personally with her full family present. The feeling their gratitude gave me was a high unlike anything else.

But, I had to get to work.

The bills of my expensive lifestyle started to catch up to me pretty quickly. I sold my lavish house in Beverly Hills and slept in my car some nights, in between shoots, just to save for the divorce fees. I did a lot of unsavory things in-between. Other times I would stay with friends, or my agent, or anyone who would take me.

My acting started to deteriorate. My health went along with it. My body did not respond well to the transplant. My steady unemployment, decreasing hygiene, and general irritability made me nearly untouchable in Hollywood or anywhere else.

Whatever. They were not worth it anyway.

I spent my newfound free time at the hospital. Every day there were new stories. Every day there were new horrors.

There was Mr. Michaels. He was twenty-eight years old when he ignored the doctor’s advice to get his skin checked. After only a year, it developed into a late stage cancer. But he was optimistic about a recovery. More so than his surgeon, at least. Could you blame him? The kid just got married.

Then there was Miss Blair. She was fifteen years old when the brain tumor crept into her eye sockets and permanently damaged her vision. The tumor was gone, now, but her sight was permanently damaged. That was okay. She had a book about how to learn Braille that she kept by her bedside every night. She’ll be alright, right?

No one could forget Mr. Miller, who just got his pension. Or Miss Martinson, who still wanted to marry her boyfriend, in the break-room. She only had six weeks left. There were so many stories and so much paint, and so many people and so many lives that needed saving… My every thought of my every single day centered around their recovery. I felt every loss of a patient like it were a family member. I was connected, intertwined, and inside the heart beat of every single occupant. Urging them on. Urging them to live.

One day, a young boy came into the emergency room. He was eleven years old, and very sick. His parents were from another country, so I helped the hospital staff arrange a translator.

The boy had already been a doctor in his home country. They said he needed a liver transplant. But they did not have the money to perform the operation at the time, and his health had started to decline after they have arrived in the States.

The doctors did a partial examination. He seemed okay. But when the insurance checks bounced, the administration bounced the whole family on their butts.

They were hapless and helpless.

When they contacted me and asked to meet at a second location… I didn’t hesitate. That was a mistake.

The boy was placed outside an empty motel as bait. Someone I could not see attacked me from behind. Then… I lose track of time. I woke up in a bathtub, somewhere outside. I found that they harvested a portion of my liver, and something in my spine.

I have yet to report this crime. I don’t think I ever will. I only want Samuel to be fine.

At present day, my eccentricities have quickly started to wear off on those around me.

My agent cut all ties. My accountant soon followed suit. The lawyers and publicists and editors and producers all stopped calling. I have no family. No inheritance. No money. Nothing at all to keep me afloat. I am alone.

The only people that still call me anymore are the patients.

Mrs. Justino has cancer again. Miss Blair may need another surgery. Mr. Freeman passed away, and the funding will soon run out at hospital. They may have to shut their doors, for good.

Everyone is still suffering. But… I still have something left.

I have a heart that beats gallons of blood through my body. I have eyes that can see hundreds of feet at a time. I have feet to run and hands to touch and lips to speak. I have corneas, and tissues, and lungs, and teeth and hair that can be used God knows where.

But I know they are of little use to someone who just does not care.

I think… maybe I will visit the hospital, one last time. I packed a bunch of letters that I signed. One is addressed to Miss Blair. One is for Mr. Michaels. One for Mr. Miller, and Mrs. Martinson, and the family of poor Mr. Freeman.

My driver’s license will be stapled to my shirt. I will take all the proper and possible precautions. To anyone that is still listening – I am sorry. But my message is simple.

I do not want to survive in a place where good people constantly lose their lives. My final donation is for the patients at Memorial Hospital. May they see a more hopeful world when they look through my eyes.